Classroom Management strategies during Guided Reading

Setting your students up for Success in Reading

A How to Guide for teachers wondering how to manage a classroom and a guided reading group so that it is a positive experience for everyone.

Timing and Classroom Management:

Ensure your reading time is for a set period and that other people in your school know that it is not acceptable to interrupt during this time.  Notices, interviews etc need to be programmed outside of your reading time. 
If you have 4 groups you should be planning to see 2 groups per day.  This means that when you start on Monday you will need pre-reading activities for all of the other groups – this is only necessary on the first day of term as after this your students will have follow-up activities to continue with from the previous week. 
Ensure that your classroom is set up with a work area for each reading group.  My classroom had groups of 4 - 6 desks together so it was ideal for students to move to their ‘reading group desks’ at the beginning of the reading session. The desks need to be close to each other as students are encouraged to work cooperatively – You can occasionally set an individual task – but students learn so much from each other that it is counterproductive to do on a regular basis.
Have a Reading Group Board so that students can see what they are required to do.  Always put the title of their reading, teacher time, learning intention and activity on this board.
Talk to the whole class at the beginning of the reading time.  Explain to each group what they are required to do today.  Ask questions such as; What is your groups learning intention? What activity are you doing today? When are you expected to have finished? This usually takes 5 minutes.  It is essential you take this time to get the children organised.  Each group will have one person responsible for getting their learning intention book.  Remind the children that you will be available for questions between groups and that they can help each other.

 Time for Guided Reading with one Group:

Settle yourself either on the mat or at a round table with your guided reading group.  It is important you are seated in a circle so that everyone is included. 
It is essential during this lesson that you are able to see all of the other children in the classroom. 
Follow through with your lesson.
Introduce the reading of the day and have children CONNECT TO their PRIOR KNOWLEDGE.  Even if this is not the learning intention of the day - it is always a valuable activity to do.  Once you have assigned a partner discussion task or thinking task to your Guided reading group - Scan the room and comment on students who have quickly settled into their correct desks or students who have started working.  Remember specific and targetted praise is what you are aiming for.  Which student do you want everyone to copy - the one who is still wandering around the room trying to find their desk or the student who is seated at their desk with their book open already started their work.  If you can see a student is genuinely unsure of what to do or is wasting time- then praise a settled student and then ask if there is anyone in 'Name's' group that would be able to help him/her get started.  Keep it focussed on positives - the student may be genuinely unsure, if they are stalling they now have the option to choose the right behaviour - you are not engaging in a confrontation.  Once a student has offered to help (believe me they always do!) then turn immediately back to your group.
Open the learning intention book and go over the learning intention.  Students may want to use alternative wording - this is fine - encourage this behavious as it ensures students understand their learning intention and have ownership.  Write the new strategies wording above your learning intention or success criteria.  It may be just one or two words need a speech bubble with synonyms in it. 
If you have new strategies vocabulary to introduce - words that are going to come up in the story - deal with these now.  Get the students to identify synonyms, or explain definition to each other.  If you need to explain more than 5 of the words then you have an indication that this book is at too high a level for your students.  Usually the students are able to guess and work out the meaning of words from their own knowledge and from the prior knowledge activity already completed.
Open your book - repeat your learning intention and then set the students their first reading and question.  While the students are reading is your opportunity to SCAN AND PRAISE.
Scan the room and praise those students who are working quietly and effectively.  My favourite comment is “I really like how student and student are talking so quietly about their work that I can’t even hear them – that is fantastic cooperation”. Every student in the class is now aware that you are looking for people working together quietly.  They have all just received reassurance that it is acceptable and desirable to talk quietly about their work. 
If you needed to ask for help for a student earlier in the session - try to catch the helper students eye -to give them a smile of recognition - or thumbs up for their assistance.  These students are usually looking for a sign from you that they have acted in a particularly good way.  There is no need to acknowledge verbally as that just calls attention to a struggling student or undesirable behaviour and may also embarrass the student who is now working hard.
Continue the guided reading lesson.  Each time students are asked to read a passage or discuss an item in pairs it is time to SCAN AND PRAISE.
Half way through your guided reading time you should ask the students what their learning intention is.  The students can read from their Learning Intention Book (LIB) or cite from memory.  The LIB is their resource.  You should encourage them to return to the LIB for help.  Then ask the students if they are being successful.  Ask one student for an example of how they have been successful and continue with your lesson.  Repeat this at the end of the guided reading session.  It only takes 30 seconds and reinforces learning and success.  This is the key to your whole program.  Skip checking for success and you will skip the success in reading!
The guided reading session should last for 20 - 25 minutes at which time you give students their follow up activity.  Ensure all students are aware of what is required of them and have a timeframe for completion of work.  Have one of the students go record their activity on the reading group board.  The activity is also explained in their learning intention book (You did this during the planning stage).  Students take their learning book with them while you go praise the whole class for their wonderful cooperation – give out group, individual or class points if you have this sort of system in your class - do this very quietly without calling attention to it.  WALK THE ROOM checking progress on work and making yourself available for questions - this should only take 5 minutes.  You will find that if you stick to 5 minutes that students will start preparing for the change over time.  Groups will discuss questions they need answered and you may be asked to quickly explain a point to the whole group or to a spokesperson for the group.  Students will never cease to surprise you with their initiative - they are very likely to ask if they can do a follow-up activity that they have thought of. When this happens you know your reading program is successful!

Call your second Reading Group and repeat above strategies.

At the end of the lesson there should always be one or possibly two groups that have completed work to hand in.  Make sure you receive it directly so that you can scan and make positive comments.  This provides students with immediate positive reinforcement.  I always make sure I have noted the odd student that has worked particularly effectively during the reading session and ensure I praise them as they hand in their work for their concentration and show of respect for other class members.
Set aside 60 - 70 minutes for your reading time.  Longer than this and the students do start going off task.  Remember half of your class are working independently for the whole reading session.  Once everyone has put their books away ask students what they learnt today or what skill did they practice, or what did they achieve. 
Always have a few reading related quiet games or activites that students can do if they finish their set work.  If a student has completed work in half the allowed time then you need to investigate.  There are several reasons for this:

    • The student has not completed the task correctly and needs to revisit their work.
    • The task you have set was too easy for this student and they require extending. 
    Classroom Management strategies during Guided Reading
    Classroom Management strategies during Guided Reading
    • The student was particularly diligent and has an excellent understanding of the concept – it is time to move on to a new strategies strategy.

Ensure that work is checked each night with feedback for students.  Work for the wall should be put up within a day of completion.  Students respond to timely feedback.  Students also look forward to seeing their work on the wall or hanging from a line.

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